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Sparkler of week: Iron Horse, 2017 Green Valley, Russian River Valley Winter’s Cuvée

This week’s blind tasting

Iron Horse, 2017 Green Valley, Russian River Valley Winter’s Cuvée, 13.5%, $70, 4.5 stars. A striking sparkler with a melding of flavors — green apple, brioche, peach and a hint of almond. The Iron Horse has complexity, an intriguing intensity, balance and a nice mousse. It snagged the top spot in our listing because of the caliber at this price point.

Domaine Carneros, 2014 Le Reve Blanc de Blancs Carneros Sparkling Wine, 12%, $120, 4.5 stars. French for “the dream,” Le Reve is this winery’s top sparkler. It has aromas of lemon, lime, honeysuckle and brioche that follow through to the palate. Well-crafted, it exudes elegance.

Flaunt, 2017 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.8%, $48, 4 stars. Aromas of yeast, pear and brioche give way to flavors of green apple, mineral and lime on the palate. This sparkler, while elegant, wins you over with its sassy citrus. Balanced and refreshing, it has a supple texture with a nice mousse.

Flying by the Seat of Our Pants, NV Bricoleur Vineyard Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.4%, $45, 4 stars. Citrus meets tropical with this lovely sparkler. It has notes of lime, citrus blossom and mango. While it has a creamy texture, it’s balanced, finishes crisp and has a persistent bubble.

Frank Family Vineyards, 2015 Napa Valley Carneros Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $55, 4 stars. A pretty sparkler with citrus notes of green apple and lemon enveloped with decadent flavors of yeast, brioche and crème brulee. Balanced, this bubbly is kept in check with its great minerality.

Gloria Ferrer, 2014 Royal Cuvée, 12.5%, $58, 4 stars. This sparkler has yeasty aromas with green apple, toast, brioche and a hint of honeysuckle on the palate. Crisp and clean, it’s a balanced bubbly with a citrusy finish. A smart pick.

Inman, 2018 Russian River Valley Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $78, 4 stars. This sparkler, made entirely from chardonnay grapes, rides on crisp acid. It has aromas and flavors of green apple, mineral and brioche. It’s elegant, supple and balanced, with a nice mousse. Well-crafted.

J Vineyard, 2014 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $60, 4 stars. Light on its feet, this sparkler has tasty notes of tangerine, apple and hazelnut with a honeysuckle finish. It’s supple, balanced and refreshing.

Marimar Estate, 2019 Dona Margarita Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Blanc de Noirs. 12.5%, $48, 4 stars. A dynamic sparkler with layered aromas and flavors of strawberry, cream, brioche and mineral. Refreshing and balanced, it has crisp acidity and a nice mousse.

Paul Mathew, 2017 Russian River Valley Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, 13.5%, $56, 4 stars. A tasty sparkler with notes of yeast, strawberry and citrus blossom. It has bright acidity and finishes crisp, with nice length and persistent bubbles.

Ram’s Gate, 2015 Carneros Blanc de Noirs, 12.5%, $68, 4 stars. Light and lively, this sparkler rides on citrus notes of mandarin and lemon from start to finish. Playing backup are the lush aromas and flavors of brioche and biscuit.

Roederer Estate, NV Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $30, 4 stars. This elegant sparkler, with its crisp acidity and bright fruit, is a steal for the price. It has layered notes of green apple, mineral and brioche. Balanced, it has a citrusy finish and a nice mousse.

“Sparkling wine is a labor of love,” said Sofian Himeur, winemaker of Sebastopol’s Iron Horse Vineyards. Referring to sparklers made in the traditional French method (méthode Champenoise), he said, “it takes great patience. From grape to finished product, it averages four years.”

Himeur, along with a team at the winery, are behind our sparkler of the week — the Iron Horse, 2017 Green Valley, Russian River Valley Winter’s Cuvée, 13.5%, $70. It’s a gorgeous sparkler with a melding of flavors — green apple, brioche, peach and a hint of almond. The Iron Horse has complexity, an intriguing intensity, balance and a nice mousse. It snagged the top spot in our list of sparkling wines $29 and up because of its caliber at this price point.

Other outstanding sparklers, at a range of prices, include: Domaine Carneros, 2014 Le Reve Blanc de Blancs Carneros Sparkling Wine, 12%, $120; Flaunt, 2017 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.8%, $48; Flying by the Seat of Our Pants, NV Bricoleur Vineyard Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.4%, $45; Frank Family Vineyards, 2015 Napa Valley Carneros Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $55; Gloria Ferrer, 2014 Royal Cuvée, 12.5%, $58; Inman, 2018 Russian River Valley Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $78; J Vineyard, 2014 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $60; Marimar Estate, 2019 Dona Margarita Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Blanc de Noirs. 12.5%, $48; Paul Mathew, 2017 Russian River Valley Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, 13.5%, $56; Ram’s Gate, 2015 Carneros Blanc de Noirs, 12.5%, $68; and Roederer Estate, NV Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $30.

As for the Iron Horse Winter’s Cuvée, Himeur said it was crafted to enjoy on a cozy winter night.

“It has a bit more richness,” he said. “I think all sparkling wines have a romance to them. This cuvée is especially heartwarming. I think it gives us a feeling of comfort and cheer.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting

Iron Horse, 2017 Green Valley, Russian River Valley Winter’s Cuvée, 13.5%, $70, 4.5 stars. A striking sparkler with a melding of flavors — green apple, brioche, peach and a hint of almond. The Iron Horse has complexity, an intriguing intensity, balance and a nice mousse. It snagged the top spot in our listing because of the caliber at this price point.

Domaine Carneros, 2014 Le Reve Blanc de Blancs Carneros Sparkling Wine, 12%, $120, 4.5 stars. French for “the dream,” Le Reve is this winery’s top sparkler. It has aromas of lemon, lime, honeysuckle and brioche that follow through to the palate. Well-crafted, it exudes elegance.

Flaunt, 2017 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.8%, $48, 4 stars. Aromas of yeast, pear and brioche give way to flavors of green apple, mineral and lime on the palate. This sparkler, while elegant, wins you over with its sassy citrus. Balanced and refreshing, it has a supple texture with a nice mousse.

Flying by the Seat of Our Pants, NV Bricoleur Vineyard Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.4%, $45, 4 stars. Citrus meets tropical with this lovely sparkler. It has notes of lime, citrus blossom and mango. While it has a creamy texture, it’s balanced, finishes crisp and has a persistent bubble.

Frank Family Vineyards, 2015 Napa Valley Carneros Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $55, 4 stars. A pretty sparkler with citrus notes of green apple and lemon enveloped with decadent flavors of yeast, brioche and crème brulee. Balanced, this bubbly is kept in check with its great minerality.

Gloria Ferrer, 2014 Royal Cuvée, 12.5%, $58, 4 stars. This sparkler has yeasty aromas with green apple, toast, brioche and a hint of honeysuckle on the palate. Crisp and clean, it’s a balanced bubbly with a citrusy finish. A smart pick.

Inman, 2018 Russian River Valley Blanc de Blancs, 12%, $78, 4 stars. This sparkler, made entirely from chardonnay grapes, rides on crisp acid. It has aromas and flavors of green apple, mineral and brioche. It’s elegant, supple and balanced, with a nice mousse. Well-crafted.

J Vineyard, 2014 Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $60, 4 stars. Light on its feet, this sparkler has tasty notes of tangerine, apple and hazelnut with a honeysuckle finish. It’s supple, balanced and refreshing.

Marimar Estate, 2019 Dona Margarita Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Blanc de Noirs. 12.5%, $48, 4 stars. A dynamic sparkler with layered aromas and flavors of strawberry, cream, brioche and mineral. Refreshing and balanced, it has crisp acidity and a nice mousse.

Paul Mathew, 2017 Russian River Valley Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine, 13.5%, $56, 4 stars. A tasty sparkler with notes of yeast, strawberry and citrus blossom. It has bright acidity and finishes crisp, with nice length and persistent bubbles.

Ram’s Gate, 2015 Carneros Blanc de Noirs, 12.5%, $68, 4 stars. Light and lively, this sparkler rides on citrus notes of mandarin and lemon from start to finish. Playing backup are the lush aromas and flavors of brioche and biscuit.

Roederer Estate, NV Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine, 12.5%, $30, 4 stars. This elegant sparkler, with its crisp acidity and bright fruit, is a steal for the price. It has layered notes of green apple, mineral and brioche. Balanced, it has a citrusy finish and a nice mousse.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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